FOOTBALL Mid North Coast will mark Female Football Week on Sunday when the opening round of the Women's Premier League (WPL) is played at the Zone Field in Taree.
FMNC's under 14, 16, 18 and open sides will tackle Thornton while other activities, including an under sixes exhibition game, will also be planned.
All FMNC teams made it to the semi-finals last year, with two, the 14s and 18s going down in the grand final. Football Mid North Coast was the only club to get all sides into the playoffs.
Kathie Bestwick is the WPL co-ordinator for Football Mid North Coast and an unofficial ambassador for women playing the code. Her three daughters, Jessica 25, Nikita 24 and Samantha all play in the open team. Until this year Kathy and her daughters played together in the six-a-side competition run in the summer by Great Lakes Vikings at Forster-Tuncurry.
Kathie has also had five-year association as a player and official with the Green Point club near Forster before moving into the job as women's co-ordinator with the WPL.
"We're getting more girls and women playing the game here,'' she said.
Kathie started playing football in Macquarie United when living in Bathurst before moving to the Great Lakes.
She was the 12th of 14 children and most of her siblings played soccer.
"At one point here were seven of us playing for the same club - Macquarie United,'' she recalled.
Kathie started playing in the Bathurst PCYC under 10s. She was the only girl in the team that was coached by her brothers. She eventually represented Bathurst at women's soccer.
Kathie is married to Tony and they have four children - Jessica 25, Nikita 24, Damien 19 and Samantha 16. All played football with Greenpoint Rovers while the three girls now play in the FMNC Women's Premier League senior squad.
"I started working with FMNC as a manager of the under 11s girls development squad in 2010, the under 12s in 2011,'' Kathie said.
"In 2012 I coached the under14s girls development and the under 16 girls SYL side in 2013, and was also manager for the State championship winning FMNC under 14s girls side.
"I then returned to a manager role in 2014 for the under 18s WPL before I was offered the role of WPL co-ordinator for 2015, the first year that the competition took in all four age groups.
"This is a role I absolutely love and I will continue this role in 2016. Football's a great game,'' she says.
"It good for fitness and it's a way of meeting new friends and keeping active.''
The WPL takes in clubs from the Newcastle area, with Football Mid North Coast being the northern outpost.
In earlier seasons the FMNC sides tended to be dominated by players from the Hastings area, but Kathy assures this is changing, with more players now involved from the Manning and Great Lakes.
"It's about half and half now,'' she said.
This year development centres have started in Kempsey, Port Macquarie, Taree and Forster-Tuncurry in the under 12 division.
David Geraghty will coach the Taree squad with Jess Evans and Sam Bestwick in charge of Forster-Tuncurry. Abby Baker is coaching Kempsey and Courtney Anderson Port Macquarie.
"This new initiative is an exciting new pathway for the girls,'' Kathie explained.
"Players receive quality coaching twice a week and play against the other centres on the same day as the WPL sides take on their Newcastle opponents at home - either Taree or Wauchope.
"All players in the under 12s centres and the under 14s WPL will be eligible to trial for the FMNC under 12s and 14s teams play play in the State championships in September and aim for selection from there to the Northern NSW teams for the nationals. The natural progression from the development centres is to the WPL teams.''
Kathie said Sunday will be a showcase of all things women's football in the area. She urges anyone who is interested in playing football or who has a child keen to take on the sport to attend the fixtures. Football Mid North Coast official will be there to provide information.
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